Colin Linden & Luther Dickinson with the Tennessee Valentines – Amour
10 songs – 45 minutes
Well, this is a lovely treat. Both Colin Linden and Luther Dickinson are well-known in roots/Americana circles (Linden through his work with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings or on ABC’s TV show “Nashville” and Dickinson via the North Mississippi Allstars and the Black Crowes). Amour is a collection of classic love songs from the broader Americana songbook, featuring a superb backing band, a variety of guest singers, all played with rare sensitivity and emotional depth.
Linden and Dickinson handle a variety of electric and acoustic guitars and dobros across the album. The Tennessee Valentines provide glorious instrumental backing. Featuring Dominic Davis on bass, Bryan Owings on drums, Fats Kaplin on violin and accordion and Kevin McKendree on piano and organ, the band takes a song like “Crazy Arms” (Ray Price’s first number one hit, in 1956) and gives it one almighty shot in the arm.
Listeners will recognize many of the songs on the album, but they are all played with such verve, novel arrangements and – yes – love, that it is like hearing them for the first time. So the closing track “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” has an almost whispered vocal from Jonathan Jackson floating over airy, spaced-out slide guitars. Chuck Willis’s “What Am I Living For” becomes a desperate lament with a beautiful vocal performance from Ruby Amanfu and outstanding organ from McKendree. Bo Diddley’s “Dearest Darling” is re-imagined as an upbeat hill country blues with a raucous vocal from Linden.
Billy Swann wrote the rock and roll classic “Lover Please” in 1962. On Amour, released 57 years later, he still sings it with a strong country cadence but Kaplin’s accordion gives the song a distinctly Cajun flavor. Meanwhile, Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do” features heavily vibrato’ed guitar and a vocal performance from Rachael Davis that nods towards Reed’s own slightly nasally tone but also unpicks the deep angst of the original.
The album features two recordings of the traditional folk song, “Careless Love”. One features Davis’s pure country vocals, while the opening track on the album is an instrumental version, featuring for the first two minutes the entwined slide guitars of Linden and Dickinson only, before the band slowly and subtly joins in.
The early rock and roll of Jesse Stone’s “Don’t Let Go” is given a rollicking slide guitar treatment with exuberant gospel-style backing vocals from Davis and Amanfu. The laughter on the slightly messy fade-out only adds to the joyous sense of fun captured on the recording.
Amour was recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, and Linden has captured a warm, organic sound that suits the music perfectly. There is a real sense throughout the album that the musicians were really enjoying themselves when recording it.
Amour features some blues, some country, some folk and is all Americana. It’s a strikingly timeless recording and a perfect soundtrack for lovers and romantics everywhere. Absolutely glorious stuff.